Skip to main content

It is well established that adversity can impact multiple dimensions of wellbeing. However, most research on adversity focuses on individual rather than family systems. Furthermore, the family and home are rarely considered in such analyses. Our research examines intersections of extreme adversity (e.g., poverty, war, and climate change) and wellbeing through the lens of place theory, with a specific focus on the family and home. This research builds upon our previous work with war-affected families by using participatory mixed methods, sharing research results with academic communities, practitioners/policymakers, and lay audiences, and training a new cohort of student-researchers.

The specific goals of the Global Adversity and Wellbeing Research Group are as follows:

  • To further our understanding of the experiences of populations who face extreme adversity.
  • To promote the use of innovative, participatory, and community-based research methodologies in a culturally respectful yet methodologically rigorous manner that have the capacity to reinforce people’s agency.
  • To learn how systems can be strengthened to support marginalized groups.
  • To share key research messages with a range of actors in academic, government, and international settings.
  • To engage in a dialogue about improvements to practices and policies that shape mechanisms of protection and support for marginalized populations.

Our research activities address global adversity from the micro- to the macro-level to underscore the importance of analyses that include perspectives at both the individual and collective level. At the micro-level, our projects focus on documenting the everyday experiences of adversity and perseverance for individuals, families, and communities. At the macro-level, our projects explore how existing systems can be supported and strengthened to ameliorate negative ramifications and contribute to positive change.

Core Research Areas

Parenting in the Context of War

Parents are considered one of the most important factors contributing to family wellbeing and protection from extreme hardships such as war. In contexts of war, as families face violence and are forced to leave their homes in search of safety, parenting roles may be severely challenged. Using a theoretical focus on people and place, our research examines parenting from a geographical lens and further explores family wellbeing.

Domicide as a Human Rights Violation

Today, thirty people are displaced from their homes and communities every minute. The likelihood of the displaced returning to their homes is becoming increasingly unlikely as their homes may have been destroyed upon their displacement. The number continues to rise as solutions to stem large-scale violence and subsequent displacement continue to fail. To address this critical issue, our research group shares a focus on understanding domicide, or the intentional destruction of home. By exploring the factors that contribute to extreme domicide and the range of effects of domicide on children, families, communities, and societies, human rights actors can begin to hold those who commit domicide accountable and take steps towards prevention.

Global Social Systems Strengthening

A socially just society relies on strong social service systems and quality service delivery from a competent and effective workforce. Together, the social service system and its workforce have the capacity to create a protective healthy environment to ensure the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities. A first step towards bolstering the social service workforce is to understand its scope globally. There remains a weak evidence base for understanding effective international practices and approaches to reinforce this important system, especially when the system interacts with individuals, families, and communities impacted by global adversity.

Mission Statement

Driven by a belief that humans can only solve the world’s most intractable adversities at the intersections of disciplines, the Global Adversity and Wellbeing Research Group brings together scholars and students from social work, health, education, geography, political science, and human rights.

The Global Adversity and Wellbeing Research Group is affiliated with Dr. Bree Akesson's Canadian Research Chair (Tier II) awarded by the Government of Canada in 2020.

Related Research Projects

Contact Us:

Bree Akesson, Associate Professor, Faculty of Social Work


Karen Frensch, Research Manager, Global Adversity and Wellbeing Research Group